• 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

The brand’s first SUV comes to challenge the Bentley Bentayga

The luxury SUV bug has bitten its share of automakers in recent years. Up to now, Rolls-Royce has been an exception, but come 2018 and the British automaker launched its very own people hauler. Better late than never, Rolls-Royce. News of Rolls’ interest in developing a luxury SUV came to light in 2015, when Rolls-Royce was already working on a brand-new platform for the Phantom sedan. As expected, the SUV is based on the same underpinnings and shares many styling cues and features with the luxury four-door.

Although Rolls-Royce has no history with SUVs, the company cited vehicles from the past which have been successful in events such as the Scottish Reliability Trials and the Alpine Trials, and had the ability to carry their owners "over challenging terrain with absolute reliability and comfort" in Australia, India, and other parts of the world. On top of being Rolls-Royce’s first-ever SUV, the Cullinan also introduces many new technologies to the brand, including all-wheel drive, an off-road driving mode, and a suspension that actively extends the dampers to keep every wheel on the ground in rough terrain. The SUV’s true purpose is to challenge the Bentley Bentayga, but how does the Cullinan compare to its British rival? Let’s find out in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

Global reveal

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior

  • Heavily based on the Phantom
  • Boxy yet somewhat elegant
  • 22-inch wheels
  • Raised suspension
  • Overall bloated design
  • Bigger than Bentayga
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The Cullinan is pretty much a Phantom with a wagon rear end and higher ground clearance

As hinted by the prototypes spotted on public roads since 2017, the Cullinan is pretty much a Phantom with a wagon rear end and higher ground clearance. The SUV is not exactly original design-wise, but it benefits greatly from the fact that the latest-generation Phantom is still fresh.

Ignore the higher suspension setup and it’s not exactly easy to tell the two vehicles apart up front. The fascias are almost identical, with the big, tall grille flanked by slender, rectangular headlamps and clean surfaces. Sure, the SUV’s headlamps are a bit thicker and the upper grille no longer extends under the "Spirit of Ecstasy" statue, but the layout is very similar.

Down below, the Phantom’s small vents just beneath the headlamps were also carried over, as did the license plate recess placed right below the grille. The bumper is again very similar, although the SUV has a three-piece grille configuration and the entire element is taller. An underbelly plate is visible at the bottom, giving the Cullinan a more utilitarian stance.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior
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The side profile is quite attractive, though
Unlike Bentley, which went with a sportier roofline, Rolls-Royce opted for a boxy layout

The story goes on in a similar fashion onto the sides. We can see the same boxy fenders, the tall, almost straight beltline that runs just under the windows, the vertical badges on the front fenders, and the featureless side skirts. Somewhat unusual for an SUV, the Cullinan doesn’t have black cladding around the wheel arches. The side skirts are a bit thicker than the Phantom’s, but don’t ruin the SUV’s elegance. Assuming that you find really big and boxy haulers elegant, that is. The massive 22-inch wheels are finished in chome for a dash of bling.

Of course, the higher suspension sets the Cullinan apart from the rest of the Rolls-Royce lineup, and so does the wagon-style roof. Unlike Bentley, which went with a sportier roofline, Rolls-Royce opted for a boxy layout that reminds me of station wagons from the 1990s. Fortunately, the tall quarter window and the really thick D-pillar give the Cullinan a unique look.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior Exterior
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The Cullinan is anything but small, but it’s not the biggest Rolls-Royce you can buy

Unlike the front fascia and the sides, the rear end is different than any other Rolls-Royce available right now. Far from surprising given that it has a tailgate, a never-before-seen feature on a vehicle from the British brand. But despite being boxy, the rear end is somewhat styling thanks to a very short deck lid that raises above the shoulders, the vertical taillights, and the sloping rear window. The fairly big roof spoiler and the diffuser-like shape of the apron add a touch of sportiness too.

The tailgate, which Rolls-Royce dubbled "The Clasp" in a nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the car, is an electrically operated two-piece hatch, allowing for multiple options when loading the trunk.

But what about size? Well, the Cullinan is anything but small, but it’s not the biggest Rolls-Royce you can buy. At 210 inches from bumper to bumper, it’s actually 17.2 inches shorter than the Phantom. It’s 130-inch wheelbase is also almost 10 inches shorter than the sedan. However, the SUV is 5.6 inches wider than the four-door and its roof stands 7.2 inches higher. Compared to its main rival, the Bentley Bentayga, the Cullinan is 7.6 inches longer overall, while it’s wheelbase is 12.2 inches longer. It’s also 3.7 inches taller. Thanks to its boxy styling cues, the Cullinan may seen significantly larger than the Bentayga when compared side by side.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior

  • Disappointingly similar to the Phantom
  • Large infotainment display
  • 4- or 5-seat layout
  • Water resistant leather
  • Genuine wood trim
  • Drinks cabinet
  • Foldable rear seats
  • Up to 68 cubic feet of luggage room
2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior
- image 780069
Even the interior is about 99-percent Phantom
The center stack has hand-finished metal pillars and most surfaces are wrapped water resistant leather

Inside the cabin, the Cullinan is again almost identical to the Phantom. And this is really disappointing to be honest. While I do understand this "brand identity" thing in which all vehicle must look alike, no matter the segment, it’s annoying to see an SUV share interior features with a sedan. Sure, the Phantom is not a regular sedan and feels massive inside the cabin too, but the Cullinan’s interior layout makes it look as if Rolls-Royce designers were simply lazy.

There are a few features that set the Cullinan apart though, starting with the larger infotainment system in the center stack, the revised passenger section of the dashboard, the wider center console, and the slightly different door armrests. The seats are different too, but they’re obviously based on the Phantom’s. Are these features enough to make the Cullinan stand on its own? Not really.

The good news is that the SUV is similar to the Phantom when it comes to luxury features too. The center stack has hand-finished metal pillars, most surfaces are wrapped in Box Grain, durable and water resistant leather, while the genuine wood trim is molded in three dimensions for a high-tech look. Several areas are heated for maximum comfort, including the front door armrests, front centre console lid, lower C-Pillar, rear side armrests and rear centre armrest.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior
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Including the rear, at a glance
Those suicide foors are cool, though
The Cullinan comes with two rear seats separated by a centre console incorporating a drinks cabinet

Entering the SUV is also a bespoke experience thanks to the special suspension that lowers the vehicle by 40 mm (1.5 inches) once the doors are open. I’m not sure if one and a half inches make that much of a difference for taller people, but it’s a cool feature to have, even in this ultra-luxurious segment.

Speaking of comfort, rear-seat passengers — which often are the owners — are treated to an office-like experience in the Individual Seat configuration. When ordered like this, the Cullinan comes with two rear seats separated by a centre console incorporating a drinks cabinet with whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes, and refrigerator. The seats also move in a number of planes to offer ultimate comfort whilst travelling in the rear. And sipping fine whiskey or expensive champagne, of course.

The second configuration includes the usual three-seat layout. Although it may not be as comfortable, this layout features a 60/40 split in which the seats fold down. This is a first for a Rolls-Royce and enhanced luggage room. The cargo floor sits lower than the tops of the rear seat cushions to prevent luggage from sliding forward, but the cargo floor can be raised to create a completely flat surface. The Cullinan can take up to 19 cubic feet of luggage with the parcel shelf in place and the rear seats up and up to 21 cubic feet without the shelf. With the rear seats folded flat and the cargo floor raised, the Cullinan can swallow up to 68 cubic feet.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior
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This is the first three-box SUV, though
With the rear seats folded flat and the cargo floor raised, the Cullinan can swallow up to 68 cubic feet of luggage

The SUV is also fitted with a glass partition to separate the seating area from the trunk, but this option is only available for SUVs equipped with the individual second-row seats. Rolls-Royce claims that the partition window makes the Cullinan the first "three-box" SUV in the world. It’s also a "nod to the era when luggage was mounted on the exterior of the motor-car, so the occupants did not travel with their belongings."

Moving over to tech, the Cullinan is loaded with the latest features, including Night Vision and Vision Assist with daytime and night-time Wildlife & Pedestrian warning, Alertness Assistant, a four-Camera system with Panoramic View, all-round visibility and helicopter view, Active Cruise Control, Collision Warning, Cross-Traffic Warning, Lane Departure, and Lane Change Warning, a High-Resolution Head-Up Display, WiFi hotspot, and new-generation navigation and entertainment systems. The central console includes the "Off-Road" button, which sets the Cullinan apart from all the other Rolls-Royce model. Hill Descent Control button and Air Suspension height adjustment controls are also placed in the same area for immediate access to the SUV’s off-road skills.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Drivetrain

  • 6.75-liter V-12
  • 563 horsepower
  • 627 pound-feet of torque
  • First Rolls-Royce with AWD
  • Four-wheel steering
  • Off-road-tuned suspension
  • 200 pounds heavier than the Phantom
2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior Exterior
- image 780077
It gets its motivation from a 6.75-liter V-12
The engine is shared with the Phantom, but the 6.75-liter V-12 in the SUV sports revisions of its own

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is built around the same all-aluminum "Architecture of Luxury" as the Phantom. Of course, the platform received major revisions in order to give the Cullinan off-road capability, but Rolls-Royce says that the extra bits added only 200 pounds.

The engine is also shared with the sedan, but the 6.75-liter V-12 in the SUV sports revisions of its own. For starters, while it delivers the same 563 horsepower, torque is down from 663 to 627 pound-feet. However, the twist comes 100 rpm sooner than in the Phantom, which kicks in at 1,700 rpm. All that oomph travels to the wheels through the same eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, but the really big news here is that all four wheels get a share of the power. This makes the Cullinan the first-ever Rolls-Royce to use an all-wheel-drive system.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan
- image 779947
But was engineered to house a second axle
While it delivers the same 563 horsepower, torque is down from 663 to 627 pound-feet

The SUV is also equipped with four-wheel steering, a feature usually found in sports cars. This system improves stability and makes the Cullinan more nimble around corners.

The SUV rides on a new suspension system with a double-wishbone setup at the front and a five-link axle to the rear. Everything is controlled by a self-leveling suspension that makes millions of calculations every second and continuously varies the electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system. It reacts to body and wheel acceleration, steering inputs, and camera information to provide the smoothest ride possible.

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior
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Which is what makes all-whee-drive possible
The SUV can be taken off the beaten path thanks to its electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system

But unlike the Phantom, the Cullinan is not only about the "magic carpet ride" experience. The SUV can also be taken off the beaten path thanks to its electronically controlled shock absorber adjustment system that uses air compression to actively push down any wheel it detects losing traction. The off-road mode can be activated by pushing the "Everywhere" button on the center stack. Once engaged, the driver can use various setting to take the SUV on any terrain, including gravel, wet grass, mud, snow, or sand.

Rolls-Royce says that the SUV can wade through up to 21.3 inches of water, which the brand claims to be the "deepest wading depth of any super-luxury SUV." This is true when compared to the Bentley Bentayga, as the Cullinan can go 1.7 inches deeper. On the other hand, if falls 14.1 inches short of the Range Rover, which isn’t as luxurious, but still competes in the premium segment.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Pricing

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior Exterior
- image 780064
There is still some things that set it apart and make it unique

Priced from $200,000, the Bentley Bentayga is ridiculously expensive for an SUV. But the new Cullinan sets a new benchmark in that department with a sticker set at $325,000. This figure makes it the most expensive SUV in the world and placed it between the Ghost and the Phantom pricing-wise.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Competition

Bentley Bentayga

2017 Bentley Bentayga High Resolution Exterior
- image 645143

The Bentley Bentayga is the obvious choice as the most direct competitor to the Rolls-Royce SUV. The idea of an SUV coming from both luxury brands seemed far-fetched as recently as 10 years ago, but times sure have changed. In its first foray into the luxury SUV market, Bentley has prepared the Bentayga to be a cut above the rest, literally and figuratively. Covered in rich materials, the interior is class-leading with amenities expected in such a vehicle. Much like the Cullinan, it shares design features with other Bentley models, taking most exterior cues from the Continental. As a result, the Bentayga has a sportier, more muscular stance. Power is provided by a 6.0-liter W-12 engine rated at 600 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque in the range-topping model. Capable of hitting 60 mph in four seconds and a top speed of 187 mph, the Bentayga is among the quickest and fastest SUVs in the world. But unlike Rolls-Royce, Bentley offers more variety under the hood, including a 4.0-liter V-8 rated at 540 horsepower and 570 pound-feet and a 4.0-liter V-8 diesel that generates 429 horses and 664 pound-feet. A hybrid was also introduced in 2018. The drivetrain, which pairs an electric motor and a 3.0-liter V-6, is shared with the Porsche Cayenne and cranks out 456 horsepower and 520 pound-feet of twist. Pricing for the Bentayga starts at around $200,000.

Read our full review of the 2018 Bentley Bentayga.

Lamborghini Urus

2019 Lamborghini Urus Exterior
- image 749815
2019 Lamborghini Urus
Lambo’s first SUV since the LM002 was discontinued in 1993 with just 328 models produced

The Lamborghini Urus isn’t exactly a super-luxury SUV, but it’s just as appealing and exotic. And while it might not have whiskey glasses and a picnic table, it’s just as capable off the beaten path. What’s more, it’s the kind of SUV you can take to the track and set new records thanks to its powerful drivetrain and performance-tuned chassis. The Urus, named after one of the largest cows to ever roam the Earth, uses a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 engine that sends a whopping 650 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. The sprint to 62 mph takes only 3.6 seconds, while top speed is rated at 190 mph, making the Urus the fastest SUV on the market. Pricing for this modern Rambo Lambo starts from $200,000.

Read our full story on the 2019 Lamborghini Urus.

Conclusion

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior Exterior
- image 780074
But this is a Rolls-Royce so you know it won’t come cheap

So it finally happened, Rolls-Royce entered the SUV market and rolled out the most expensive crossover ever built. Much like the Bentayga, I’m pretty sure that the Cullinan will boost Rolls-Royce sales to unprecedented levels and that it will spawn a few ludicrous models from the Bespoke division, but I have mixed feeling about it. While I can live with the Phantom-based exterior design, the Cullinan deserves a unique interior. Sure, this might not matter to wealthy customers who are usually interested in the luxury features and the enhanced comfort, but looking at the layout I get the feeling that Rolls-Royce was a bit lazy in the design process. Finally, the Cullinan also needs more engine options to go against the Bentayga. I have a feeling the the Brits won’t borrow a diesel from BMW anytime soon, but the company definitely needs a hybrid drivetrain and maybe even a smaller V-8. Sticking to tradition is brave and cool, but it’s the 21st century and Rolls-Royce needs to ditch some of its old habits.

  • Leave it
    • Awfully expensive
    • Not as sporty as the Lamborghini Urus
    • I don’t like the bloated Phantom wagon design
    • Needs a hybrid drivetrain

References

2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII High Resolution Exterior
- image 725603

Read our full review on the 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

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Read more Rolls Royce news.

Leaked Shots of the Cullinan Exterior and Interior

Here it is folks, the Cullinan inside and out. We knew it was set to be based on the Phantom, but we had no idea there would be this much Phantom DNA. At this point, it’s safe to say that the Cullinan is 90-percent Phantom with a raised roof and raised suspension. Now that we’ve seen the interior and exterior, and how similar they are, you can bet it’ll get motivation from the 6.75-liter V-12, so expect the Phantoms output of 563 horsepower and 663 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed ZF automatic should be expected as well, and there will be all-wheel drive as standard equipment. For now, official details are scant, but it debuts very soon so be sure to check back for updates!

First Official Images

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior
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2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior
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Spy Shots

November 20, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan begins dropping camouflage

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan
- image 746167
2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan
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October 24, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan reveals its interior

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior Spyshots
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2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Interior Spyshots
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July 28, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan caught testing on the Nurburgring

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior Spyshots
- image 725078
2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior Spyshots
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March 14, 2017 - Rolls Royce Cullinan caught testing in Sweden

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior Spyshots
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2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior Spyshots
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March 9, 2016 - First mule caught testing

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior Spyshots
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2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior Spyshots
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Reference

2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 725009

Read our full review on the 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII

Update History

Update 5-9-2018: The Cullinan is set to debut on May 10th, but some leaked images courtesy of Ferdfanpage give us an unadulterated look inside and out ahead of the big day. Check them out in the special section below.

Updated 11/20/2017: The upcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan was caught testing once again, and as you can see it begun dropping some camouflage, which allows us to see a side line that almost looks elegant and well in proportion.

Updated 10/24/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan out for a new testing session, and this time they were able to take also a few shots of the interior.

Updated 07/28/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan out for a testing session on the Nurburgring track.

Update 12/01/2016: Nine months after we got our first glimpse at the Cullinan SUV, Rolls-Royce releases two official, camouflaged images on a production-ready SUV and confirms that the SUV is being called Project Cullinan. Later this month it will be in the arctic circle doing some more testing before heading to the middle east in 2017. Check out our review below to see the new images and to learn more about it.

Updated 03/09/2016: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Rolls Royce SUV - rumored to be called Cullinan out for a cold weather testing session in Sweden. You will notice that the car in the photos is anything but an SUV, but remember this is just a mule testing the upcoming platform.

Updated 09/17/2015: In a recent interview at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Muller Otvos confirmed that the company’s first SUV should be unveiled by the end of 2018. The car will most likely retain the current "Cullinan" codename, which was given by world’s largest rough diamond. (AutoExpress)

Updated 03/16/2015: Based on the recent details and our own speculations, we’ve created a rendering of the future Rolls Royce SUV. We hope you’ll like it.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
About the author

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